(See our updated September 2018 article on fault in Virginia left turn accidents.)
The need to complete a left turn in busy traffic can test the patience of any driver. You are required to yield, and sometimes the rush of traffic makes it seem as though your turn to make your move will never arrive. However, losing your resolve to wait for a clear window to cross can lead to dire results.
In certain circumstances, a left turn can prove far from a straightforward maneuver, leading to a collision with a vehicle from oncoming traffic. Because of the nature of the left turn and the rules of the road, the motorist making the left turn when an accident occurs typically is identified as the driver at fault. It is challenging to prove otherwise, though there are possible situations that could lead to the motorist who is traveling straight take the blame.
The chief reason that accidents involving left turns usually are determined to be caused by the motorist making the turn is that the right of way rests with the vehicles that are going straight. That means that those who are turning left into traffic are required to be sure that the way is clear and safe before attempting a turn. Typically, an accident involving a left turn occurs when a driver attempts to speed through a left turn before oncoming traffic arrives but does not actually have enough time to complete the turn. Another possible scenario that could prompt an accident is when the person making the left turn believes that oncoming traffic has a red light instead of green – not realizing that they need to yield the right of way to traffic. Also, a driver may not see the vehicle traveling in the opposite direction.
Some accidents occur when the motorist making the left turn could elude blame. One is if the motorist driving straight was traveling at excessive speed, though that can be a difficult argument to prove. In addition, a motorist turning left may not be liable if the other driver ran a red light or stop sign or otherwise behaved recklessly. Another case could be when both motorists involved were turning left, and one of them can be shown to be at fault, such as because they lost control of their vehicle. Finally, a driver may not be liable if they had the time and space to complete a left turn but something outside of their control forced them to stop prematurely.
However, all of these exceptions are less likely than the more frequent occurrence: the motorist turning left is at fault.